Ottawa Senators vs Nashville Predators Preview
The Ottawa Senators were already burned by one former teammate this week. They hope that same thing doesn't happen this evening against the Nashville Predators in Mike Fisher's return to Scotiabank Place.
The 31-year-old Fisher was a second-round selection by the Senators in the 1998 Entry Draft and amassed 167 goals and 181 assists in 675 games with Ottawa. His stint with the club came to an end nearly a year ago when the Sens shipped him to the Predators on Feb. 10 for a pair of draft picks, including a 2011 first rounder as they looked to begin a rebuilding process.
Fisher had five goals and seven assists in 27 games with the Predators after the deal and added seven points in 12 playoff games.
"I've been looking forward to it for a long time, but I'm sure it is going to be a little strange going into the visiting locker room," Fisher told Nashville's website. "But that being said, as an athlete you get ready for playoff games and there are different emotions, excitement and you have to learn to just channel it. I'm sure (Thursday night) will be a little like that. But you know what, when the puck drops it is all business and it is all the same."
Fisher's return comes just two days after former starting Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott came back to town as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Elliott haunted his former club by making 28 saves in dealing the Senators a 3-1 loss, Ottawa's season-high seventh in a row.
Elliott was traded to Colorado last season for Craig Anderson, who was pulled less than four minutes into Tuesday's game after allowing a pair of goals on four shots. Alex Auld made 13 saves in relief.
Daniel Alfredsson had the lone goal for the Senators, who are on their longest losing streak since an 0-9-2 drought from Jan. 14-Feb. 9 of last year.
"The first 10 minutes, they forced a lot of turnovers and capitalized on a couple of them, and we put ourselves in a tough hole again," Alfredsson said.
Ottawa's skid, which includes losses in the first three of a five-game homestand, has dropped the club to the eighth overall spot in the Eastern Conference and just two points ahead of ninth-place Florida.
Senators defenseman Chris Phillips is expected to reach a milestone tonight after skating in his 999th career game on Tuesday. He will join Alfredsson as the only players to skate in 1,000 games with Ottawa.
Fisher will look to dampen that celebration and help his club get back on track following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Canucks on Tuesday. The loss dropped Nashville to 14-3-1 in its past 18 games and the club sits in a tie with St. Louis for second place in the Central Division, five points behind first-place Detroit.
Fisher had a goal on Tuesday to give him nine tallies and 17 points over his past 16 games. He also has eight goals in his past eight contests, while Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson lit the lamp as well.
Pekka Rinne carried a club-record 11-game win streak into Tuesday's start, but allowed three first-period goals en route to his first defeat since Jan. 5. He had allowed more than two goals just once over his run of victories.
"That's a fast team over there and we tried to match it," said Nashville defenseman Roman Josi. "I thought we played pretty well and a got a point out of it, just couldn't get that extra point."
The Predators had a six-game home winning streak snapped. They play four of their next five on the road.
Nashville posted a 6-5 overtime win when these clubs last met in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2009, with captain Shea Weber logging the game-winner as part of his two-goal effort.
The Sens, though, have sandwiched that loss with a pair of wins in Nashville, including a 2-1 victory in the lone encounter last season.
Vancouver Canucks vs Minnesota Wild Preview
The Vancouver Canucks keep finding ways to win close games, but tonight they may have to find a way to do so without former Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin.
The Minnesota Wild are hoping the possible return of their captain can keep them in the postseason hunt.
The Wild may have Mikko Koivu back in the lineup this evening against a Canucks squad that could be minus one half of its high-scoring twin duo after Sedin was forced to miss practice on Wednesday.
Sedin, the league leader with 46 assists to go along with a 57-point total that ranks among the best in the NHL, suffered a right ankle injury blocking a shot in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win over Nashville. Though Sedin returned to the game and had a pair of assists, his team-record string of 552 consecutive games played is in doubt for tonight.
"We're still waiting on results from a CT scan" said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault on Wednesday. "They did an x-ray and couldn't tell from the x- ray. He was obviously in a lot of pain."
A potential loss of Sedin could be big for the Northwest Division-leading Canucks. Though they have a comfortable 13-point lead over the second-place Wild in the division, they trail the Red Wings by three points for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Vancouver is 5-0-2 in its past seven games and has just two regulation losses in its past 14 trips to the ice (9-2-3). Still, those spans have come with anxious moments as the Canucks have gone to a shootout in three straight games, including the first two of a four-game road trip, and all told each of their past five games and eight of 10 have gone beyond regulation.
Tuesday was the latest instance as goals by Ryan Kesler, Byron Bitz and Daniel Sedin staked the Canucks to a 3-1 lead after the first period versus the Predators, but Nashville scored twice in the second off Roberto Luongo to even things up. Alexander Edler then won it for Vancouver in the sixth round of the shootout.
"It's a tight league. Not a lot of separation, and we're going to be involved in a lot of tight games," Luongo said after making 37 saves.
The Wild open a four-game homestand following Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Blue Jackets. Minnesota was hoping that Koivu could return for that tilt, but he missed his eighth straight game due to a shoulder injury. However, he had a good practice on Wednesday according to head coach Mike Yeo and said the team would see how he is today before making a decision on his return.
"I had a good skate and felt better again. I guess each and everyday it's getting better, so that's a good sign," Koivu said after practice, adding it's up to Yeo if he plays tonight.
The Wild could certainly use Koivu as they have lost three of four and 18 of their last 23 (5-13-5) since a seven-game win streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 10. Nate Prosser scored his first career goal in Tuesday's loss to the Blue Jackets, while Niklas Backstrom allowed three goals on 37 shots.
"It was back-and-forth. We had a couple chances, but I don't think we deserved to win the game," Yeo said.
Minnesota enters play tonight tied for eighth in the West with Phoenix, one more than both Colorado and Calgary.
The Canucks have won six of seven and eight of their past 11 encounters with the Wild, but have lost five of their past six in Minnesota.
Calgary Flames vs. Phoenix Coyotes Preview
Needing a big two points on Wednesday night, the Calgary Flames turned to pair of Finns to get the job done. The Flames aim to jump into the playoff picture this evening and stop the Phoenix Coyotes' three-game winning streak in the process.
Calgary went into last night's meeting with the San Jose Sharks having lost three of its past four games. However, the Flames appeared to pick up some momentum with a big 4-3 win that featured the seventh hat trick of Olli Jokinen's career. He helped fellow Finland native Miikka Kiprusoff reach 300 career victories with his offensive outburst.
Kiprusoff ended with 34 saves in the milestone victory, which pulled Calgary into a tie with Colorado for 10th overall in the Western Conference with 57 points. That has the Flames a point back of the Coyotes and Wild for the eighth seed.
"It's a nice number," Kiprusoff said of 300 wins. "Right now it's not that big a deal. It's nice, but we have a job to do here. We're fighting for the playoffs, and we need those wins. But, yeah, it's a good number."
Jokinen added his 29th assist of the season on Jarome Iginla's goal to up his team-leading point total of 45 despite not feeling well before the game.
"I haven't felt that good in the last couple of days," said Jokinen. "I've felt like I've been getting sick or something, but it's all mental. Block it out and try to do things right. Sometimes you get lucky."
The Coyotes hope that luck has nothing to do with their current season high- tying winning streak. Phoenix extended its run on Tuesday with a 4-1 victory over Dallas, getting goals from Radim Vrbata, Keith Yandle, Raffi Torres and Derek Morris to win three in a row for the first time since Oct. 27-Nov. 2.
"That's three games now where we've played how we have to play," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. "We have a lot of people that are committed to doing things that make you win hockey games."
Morris potted his first goal since March 24 of last year, ending a 51-game goal drought, while fellow blueliner Yandle scored before leaving the game early in the third with a knee injury sustained while blocking a shot. He is questionable for tonight.
Mike Smith was solid in net, making 28 saves in his career high-tying 42nd game of the season first done with the Lightning in 2009-10.
The Coyotes and Flames are meeting for the first time this season after Phoenix swept the four-game set a year ago. The 'Yotes have won eight of the past 11 meetings overall as well as four straight as the host versus Calgary.